Collective Resource Approach | Sociotechnical
Systems Design | R/UDATs
Participatory Action Research | Joint
Application Development | Participatory Ergonomics
Practices in participatory design have emerged in different professions,
places, and areas of technological development. This page will provide
some introductory historical background on a number of these sources for
participatory design expertise.
We are interested in collecting additional historical summaries from
omitted areas as well as mulitple perspective viewpoints on the participatory
design histories presented.
Please email submissions and suggestions for areas warranting historical
summaries to David Levinger.
The Participatory Design Conference has its roots in Scandinavian initiatives
in computer systems development. Most notably, the "collective resources"
approach developed in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The Collective Resource Approach to systems development recognizes
the importance of perspective, interests, conflict, and participation among
multiple expertise standpoints in the design process. Technology is not
neutral, it benefits people disproportionately. Adverse consequences are
usually ignored when those who would be affected are not included in the
process. The roots of the Collective Resources Approach are generally associated
with the efforts of Kristen Nygaard and Olav Terje Bergo in early 1970s
Norway. When certain social objectives are sought in design, the Collective
Resources Approach aims to pool the various forms of specialized and situated
expertise to increase the collective understanding of a given situation.
This approach was influenced by three major developments in post-war
Norway: the industrial democracy movement; Sociotechnical Systems Design;
and the creation of the SIMULA computer programming language. The industrial
democracy movement advocated and established the right for worker representation
on corporate boards of directors. These and some of the other important
gains were possible because of the high level of membership in labor unions
(over 80 percent). In the 1960s, British and Australian researchers with
a Sociotechnical Systems Desgin approach collaborated with Einar Thorsrud
in Norwegian experiements with self-governing work groups and pyschological
job requirements. Finally, an Operations Research trajectory into Informatics
led to the invention of the computer language SIMULA (1965), significant
to business process control and object-oriented programming.
The Collective Resources Approach became a significant influence in
Scandinavian projects involving labor unions and end-users in the design
of computer systems. Major projects associated with this approach include:
the Iron and Metal Worker's Project, DEMOS (Swedent), DUE (Denmark), UTOPIA,
and UNITE. These projects have been reported on at PDC conferences. Another
outcome was the national data agreement in 1975 that gave workers the rights
to elect specialized shop stewards to deal with information systems and
the right to review new technology before its implementation.
A more detailed account of the early activities in this tradition can
be found in Bjerknes,
Gro and Tone Bratteteig (1995). "User Participation and Democracy.
A Discussion of Scandinavian Research on System Development". Scandinavian
Journal of Information Systems. Vol. 7, No. 1. pp. 73-98. A portion
of this paper is quoted from here:
2. The Scandinavian trade union projects
Historically the starting point for user participation in system development
was the discussion about the relationship between work and democratic values
in Scandinavia around 1960 [Gustavsen, 86]. At that time, it was generally
agreed that industry should level the general democratic principles in
society, and that opportunities for increased individual engagement should
be created as a means to increase productivity and efficiency [Thorsrud
et al, 64; Thorsrud and Emery, 70]. A large action programme for improving
the working life in Scandinavia was designed and conducted as an industrial
democracy programme by The Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (LO) in
cooperation with The Norwegian Employers' Federation (NAF). NAF was interested
in rationalisation and improved organisational development; LO wanted to
empower the workers. One of the results of the Cooperation Projects was
a revised Worker Protection and Working Environment Act [AML, 77; Sørensen,
92]. AML's section 12 states that workers and their representatives shall
be kept informed about systems used for planning and performing work, and
about planned changes in such systems. Sufficient education for using the
systems, and participation in the design process is emphasised. The main
idea is that the workers themselves shall control and be responsible for
Within this cooperative climate, some more explicitly stated political
projects were carried out to support and strengthen the trade unions. Stronger
trade unions were supposed to contribute to democracy by giving workers
a voice and an opportunity to influence their work situation. The trade
unions were part of the existing power structures in society established
to empower the workers.
The first political project was initiated by the Norwegian Iron and
Metal Workers' Union (NJMF) in a resolution made at the annual meeting
in 1970 [Nygaard and Bergo, 74; Nygaard, 79]. The NJMF project started
in the beginning of January 1971, and ended before summer 1973. The objective
was to apply a workers' perspective on development and introduction of
new technology in order to produce an action plan that would represent
and strengthen the workers' position with respect to introduction and use
of computer technology.
The NJMF project emphasised that knowledge gained locally should be
a basis for the trade unions to act on a central level. The results from
the project included technology agreements (the first made at A/S Viking
Askim in 1973), textbooks, and vocational training programmes on technology.
The Swedish DEMOS project (DEMOkratiske Styringssystemer) from 1975
to 1979 did research on behalf of the responsible and skilled worker [DEMOS,
79; Ehn and Sandberg, 79]. The basic assumptions were that the use of computer
technology contributes to rationalising work and deskilling workers, and
that there is a fundamental conflict between workers and employers that
cannot be resolved. The responsible worker has the right and duty to participate
in decisions concerning both what is produced and how it is produced. Power
is not equally distributed between workers and management, however, and
a model for negotiations between management and unions on the introduction
of computers was proposed. The negotiation model more or less institutionalises
the conflict between employers and workers.
The objectives of the Danish DUE project (Demokrati, Udvikling og Edb)
from 1977 to 1980 were to build up resources within unions to increase
the unions' influence on the use of computer systems. The project also
aimed at contributing to a professional curriculum and research programme
in systems development [DUE, 78; 79; Kyng and Mathiassen, 79].
The first trade union projects, NJMF, DEMOS and DUE, have some characteristics
in common. They were based on the contradiction between capital and labour
claiming that there is an antagonistic relationship between the two. They
aimed at strengthening the labour side of the contradiction between workers,
representing the labour, and management, representing the capital in order
to make the struggle more even. They were striving for a democratic research
and development process claiming that researchers have the duty to support
those with less power and resources. They also claimed that, when not reflecting
on their role, researchers often support those in power [Sandberg, 75].
The projects departed from strong trade unions, and they were mainly concerned
with the organised work force and mainly with production. The researchers
believed that working life democracy can be reached through trade unions
as institutions representing a workers' collective.
3. Design for the skilled worker
The experience from the trade union projects showed that strong unions
may increase the workers influence on technology, but that this is not
sufficient. It appeared to be necessary to create alternative technologies
as well, to fight vendors' monopoly. The focus shifted to the means of
production and the form and content of the working conditions. The next
"generation" of projects thus concentrated on technological alternatives.
Design Assistance Teams
A R/UDAT (pronounced ROO-dat) is a grassroots approach to community
development issues. The program combines local resources with the expertise
of a multidisciplinary team of recognized professionals to identify ways
to encourage desirable change in a community. The team conducts an intensive
four-day workshop on site and then returns within the year to advise on
implementation strategies. The process is fast-paced, exciting, energizing--and
it works. This approach--which can address social, economic, political,
and physical issues--offers communities a tool that mobilizes local support
and fosters new levels of cooperation. The R/UDAT program is offered to
communities as a public service of the American Institute of Architects
Since 1967, R/UDATs have been conducted in over 125 communities nationwide
and have addressed a wide variety of community problems, including urban
growth and land-use, inner-city neighborhoods, rust belt issues, downtowns,
environmental issues, waterfront development, and commercial revitalization.
More than 500 professionals representing over 30 disciplines have donated
more than 3.5 million dollars in services as members of R/UDAT teams.
From the American Institute of Architects guide "R/UDAT Planning
Your Community's Future." For more information, contact the AIA
R/UDAT program at (202) 626-7532. http://www.e-architect.com/pia/rudat.asp
See the Participatory Action Research Network: http://www.parnet.org/
- Joint Application Development
For an article comparing JAD and PD, see Adrian Damian, Danfeng Hong,
Holly Li, Dong Pan. "Joint Application Development and Participatory
Design." Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Alberta,
Canada T2N 1N4 (adi, hongd, liq, pand)@cpsc.ucalgary.ca http://www.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~pand/seng/613/report.html
As computer systems become more complex, business emphasize more on
quality, productivity, traditional waterflow lifecycle methodologies can
not satisfy these trends. Joint Application Development (JAD) and Participatory
Design (PD) methods were proposed in order to address the problem. These
two methods both emphasize greater user involvement and user participation
in the development of systems. JAD was originally adopted in North America,
while PD in Scandinavia. There are many similarities between JAD and PD.
However, JAD and PD have different goals, JAD emphasizes on the functional
requirements of the system, PD emphasizes more on social aspects of the
Last updated: June 12, 1998ddl